12" Captain William Clark

A week or two ago, I reviewed one of the new figures from the Manitou Free Traders - Pierre Charbonneau. A member of the infamous Corps of Discovery, Pierre was one of three figures I received from them. Tonight's review covers a second, and much better known member of the Corps, William Clark.

Clark was the yang to Lewis' yin, the peanut butter in his chocolate. Lewis had once served under Clark in the military, and hand selected his as his partner in leading the expedition. While Clark was technically a lesser rank than Lewis at the time due to the usual government delays, but Clark always treated him as an equal, especially in front of the rest of the party. The men were such good friends that Clark even named his first born son after Lewis.

This sixth scale figure of Clark is available through a handful of online retailers, or at various museum gift shops around the country. These figures are limited to around 1000 of each, and this low run tends to drive the unit price up. Clark has a suggested retail of $60, but you can find them at some places for as little as $50.

Packaging -  ****
Manitou Free Traders are doing a wonderful job with their packaging, taking cues from other successful companies and improving on them. The package is a fifth panel box, similar to bbi, with the accessories in a smaller bubble attached to the inside of the fifth panel. However, it is not attached permanently, and can easily be removed. The figure can also be removed from its tray with absolutely no damage and only one twisty. This is very collector friendly packaging, and the graphics and text add value as well. This is some of the nicest packaging I've ever seen from a small independent manufacturer.

Sculpting - ***1/2
I wasn't a huge fan of the Charbonneau sculpt, not because of the general quality, but because of the slightly quirky expression. The Clark sculpt is more stoic and traditional, and from the paintings that are available, very accurate. I particularly like the work on the hair, although it's not a style that anyone today would be caught dead in.

I waffled around a bit on this score before I finally went with the extra half star.  There are some issues, particularly with the eyes, but I think these are more a flaw of the paint than the sculpt.  In comparing this sculpt to the most famous portrait of Clark (see above), I have to say that it's extremely accurate.  I suspect this is the portrait they used as their reference material, since the tilt of the right eyebrow, and set of the mouth is almost identical.

Of course, this also means that it suffers from the same slightly non-realistic feel that any sculpt based on an oil painting suffers from.  I am quite glad though that they went with sculpted hair here, rather than the rooted hair that Pierre sports.

I complained in my previous review about the generic hands sculpted for Pierre. Clark comes with those same hands, but also with a second set sculpted wearing gloves. It's likely that you'll switch to this second pair full time once you've got him out of the package. All the hands are done in a softer plastic, making them pliable enough to place accessories within.

Paint - ***
The paint is predominately on the face and white gloves.  The quality is decent, but not quite at the same level as the sculpt.

The skin tone has that slightly too pink appearance, although he was a fair skinned guy.  The eyes aren't quite lined up, with the right looking a tad higher than the left.  The hair color is good, but the hair line isn't cut quite as well as you might like.

Articulation - **1/2
The body is very similar to bbi or Hot Toys bodies, very lightweight but sturdy. There's all the articulation you expect, with more joints than Tommy Chong on a Friday night, but there were some issues this time around. Charbonneau's joints were quite tight, and he held poses well, but I had lots of trouble keeping Clark standing, even with the boots. The ankles, knees and hips are quite loose, but the problem is likely to be hit and miss. Sideshow had this same problem early on, and Manitou Free Traders will want to try to improve the consistency to avoid customer complaints down the road.

As I mentioned in the sculpt section, Clark has a second set of white gloved hands. The hands pop on and off easily, yet not too easily. The posts are actually part of the hands, and pop into the forearms, rather than the other way around. The wrist articulation is good, but you'll probably stick with the gloved hands most of the time.

Outfit - ***
This is another score that caused me to waffle, or perhaps pop-tart, around a bit.  I cut a half star though this time, and it's all for one reason.

The outfit consists of his military dress coat, pants, shirt, red sash belt, dress military hat, shoulder belt, and boots.  The clothing is well tailored, made from very high quality material, and shows a tremendous amount of detail and historical accuracy.  The careful gold stitching, brass rivets, and tight fit take the costume above the norm.

The sword and scabbard fit nicely in the pleather shoulder belt, and the felt hat, while funky, fits well.  This style of hat reminds me of today's baseball cap - you can wear it lots of ways on your head.  I prefer it off to the side slightly, similar to the way he is wearing it on the box, but you could have it completely lengthwise as well.

So what's my big issues?  The boots.  The quality is much lower on these than any other aspect of the figure, reminding me of dollar store Joes more than high end figures.  They are a soft rubber, and the tops are roughly cut.  They have that sticky, tacky feel of cheaper toys, and were the one disappointment in an otherwise great costume.

BTW, I do realize that the high collar doesn't look as good on a sixth scale figure as it does on a person, especially if that person had the neck of a giraffe.  In both the portrait above and in the cover box art, the collar doesn't rise as far on the face, but I believe that's a matter of getting clothing to scale down appropriately to this size and still look realistic.

I don't own Lewis, but from looking at photos, it appears that he's stylin' in the exact same outfit as Clark.  That would also cost them some points if I were considering buying the pair.

Accessories - ***1/2
There's no shortage of accessories here - flintlock rifle with strap, flintlock pistol, powder horn, sword and scabbard, sextant, haversack, bayonet with its own scabbard, compass (that opens and closes), knife, tomahawk, paddle, extra set of hands, telescope, and a pleather 'case' that holds various dispatches and maps.

With all those goodies, you'd figure this would be an easy four star score, and if this is the ONLY figure you get from the series, you'd be right. However, once you have several of the figures, you'll see how much reuse there is across the line. I think the compass, sextant, and telescope are the only unique accessories to Clark, and I'm not even sure that they all are.

Still, adding in the extras like the guns, knife, axe, etc. adds to the display possibilities with the figure and the overall value. Several of these accessories are quite well designed, and along with the opening compass, the telescope opens completely out, each section fully extending, and the hammers on both guns move. The case with the included documents is a very nice touch, and it's quite possible that while Lewis also has a case like this, the documents could be quite different.

Value - **
Clark's value score is better than Pierre's for two reasons - first, he has several more accessories, and second, his suggested retail is considerably ($20!) less. If you hunt around, you can find him for about $50, which is a tad expensive for an unlicensed figure, but the low production run is the culprit.

Fun Factor - **1/2
If you have kids that would actually find a guy dressed like this 'fun', then they'll enjoy him. He has a buttload of accessories, and the quality is definitely there. But if you have kids who think William Clark is really a 'fun' figure, you may have bigger issues. This is really a figure intended for history buffs and collectors of all things American West.

Things to watch out for - 
Not much. None of the accessories are particularly easy to break, and there wasn't anything confusing or difficult about using them or his outfit.

Overall -  ***
My only real issue with this figure is the boots - had they been of the quality and construction that I expected, Clark could have squeaked in another half star, perhaps.  At this price point, the market expects alot, especially for figures that are 'museum quality'.

Still, this head sculpt is a big improvement, and the quality of the rest of the uniform and the sheer number of accessories is really impressive.  History buffs who are a fan of the period will enjoy these, and they will make a nice addition to any Western themed collection.

Packaging - ****
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **1/2
Outfit - ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
You'll have to do some searching around for this guy, as not too many retailers are carrying him. Considering the very low production numbers, that's no surprise, and your best bet may be your local museum. That's especially true if you leave in a western state where the expedition passed through.

Related Links:
There's a couple key links:

- I've already reviewed the Charbonneau figure, and I'll have a couple more reviews coming.

- the Manitou Free Traders site has lots of information on the line.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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